Monthly Archives: December 2014

PBL and Student Motivation

Last week I began my launch, or immersion lesson using PBL with The Graveyard Book. The students have been reading this narrative by Neil Gaiman since the beginning of the year. I’ve heard mixed reviews about the book. Some students were sad to see the book’s end, while for others, the end couldn’t have come sooner. I was thrilled to see that despite the various reviews, all students were motivated to hear of the potential to reach out to the author by completing the upcoming project. I could see the wheels begin to turn as students thought about what it would be like to have the author of this book actually read something they have composed. A few students even raised the question of what the likelihood is that Neil Gaiman would actually read something they have sent to him. I answered their inquiries with honesty and was releived to find that students were still very motivated and excited for the project.
I am working with students in a district that has recently given all students, grades 6-12, a chrome book. I have found that the comfort levels with the technology range to a great extent within the room. For instance, some students have worked with Prezi before, while others need help to simply google information. In addition, I have also found that in order to use the technology available, the students and I have to be especially patient because the connection is extremely slow.   Uploading webpages and such can lead to awkward and long pauses in the middle of a lesson, disrupting the flow of information and discussion.

I am learning to think ahead, however, and I’m trying to fill the technology pauses with discussion prompts and partner planning for the work to come.
I can see how merely attaining the chrome books for a one-to-one ratio is a very minimal piece in the preparation work that must occur before pieces of technology can be useful and beneficial to student learning and teaching. I’m curious to see how students handle researching, citing and Prezi in the upcoming lessons. It will all be beneficial, regardless of the prodcuts.  The lessons learned within the lesson are equally treasured. It’s not only the destination, but the process and the learning occurring along the way that hold importance as well.

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The Aha of my Tutoring Process

I’m writing today in reflection of the tutoring process.  Although my sessions with Kim will continue beyond the length of EDU 832, I’m taking a moment today to scoop up what the process has to offer at this point in time.  Kim and I began our journey about three months ago.  We picked up and put down three books before settling on our current book, If I Stay.  This alone was a learning opportunity for me.

I set out on a path complete with topics and books of interest to Kim, some on her reading level, some a bit beyond her independent level and some she chose on her own, while a couple I had brought to offer.  Despite all of these components, none of them seemed to influence Kim as much as whether or not the text grabbed her and held her interest.   For example, The Fault in Our Stars seemed to be a great match for Kim.  She started the book out with enthusiasm and gusto.  Within two weeks her steem had run out and she ditched the book.  I tried to encourage her to give some books more time, but I began to understand that what Kim needed most in a book was a story that grabbed her and held her curiosity, her desire to read on and to find out more.  I also discovered that despite my attempts, my loyalty in our sessions together and my endless attempts to build her confidence, I could not find the story that would help Kim to become a reader.  She needed to discover this joy herself.  I hope that Kim has found this is her current selection; time will tell.

Despite my attempts to help Kim, I could not make her enjoy reading.  I could not compensate for the fact that reading isn’t a common acivity of value in her home and I could not compensate for the fact that Kim did not find delight in the enchanting possiblities of books and the stories they share when she was a child.  What I found was a student who was a couple of grades below in her reading level and it wasn’t because she couldn’t read or struggled with the skills she needed to be a successful reader.  It seemed to be that Kim simply hadn’t found a passion for reading up to this point.

Our time together revealed her lack of vocabulary base, which is likely due to her lack of being read to consistently as she was growing up and her lack of independent reading practices now that she is older.  These are hard areas to fill in or compensate for if Kim is not willing to read on her own.  I believe that only Kim can do this for herself and my role is to continue my efforts in motivating her and offering oppourtunities for her to discover the joys of reading on a personal level.  Problems such as, her exposure to new words, will begin to mend when Kim begins to increase the amount of time she is reading every day.

There were a few helpful changes that seemed to make a difference with Kim’s motivation to read.  First of all, allowing her the freesom to cast uninteresting books aside until she found one that carried her curiosity beyond the first few chapters, allowed her the time and discovery she needed to find the right book.  Involving a friend in the reading of that magical book was what seemed to help Kim stay tuned into the book for the duration.  Not only did Kim and her friend participate during our small literature circle, but they also were allowed to buddy read during their silent sustained reading block, which met twice a week for 20 minutes.  The last piece that I found helpful was my persistence.  I came prepared to meet with Kim twice a week, every week and regardless of whether we were in limbo, searching for the right read, or moving along with If I Stay, we met, we discussed where Kim was along this reading journey and what move we were going to make next and why.  I believe this persistence and encouraging Kim to keep searching for that magical read were very important.  
Unfortunately, I do believe the desire to read is critical.  Witout the desire, it becomes very hard to address some of the existing gaps.  I experienced first hand, how very important it is for our students to find the joy and rewards reading has to offer.   We can encourage and try without hesitation to create this catch for our students, but without it, I can’t help but agree with them; that reading just becomes a whole lot of struggle without much enjoyment!  The moral of the story is, be passionate about reading, encourage your students to find this passion for themselves – whatever it takes, and be aware of your students’ past – look at what they and you, are up against and perservere!  The rewards are worth it for both your students and you!  After all, isn’t this why we decided to teach in the first place!

Fingers Crossed – We’ve found an interesting read!

I am writing with the hope that the following will not jinx the success Kim has found with our new book.  The book,  If I Stay, seems to be a keeper so far, and I’m thrilled!  Kim has not only read what I asked her to for our next session together, she has read more!  Kim’s friend has also joined in and is meeting with us to discuss the book.  Our last session together proved to be more engaging with juicier discussions.  Kim’s friend is offering some nice viewpoints that help guide our discussions.

One red flag that I remember from my first meeting with Kim back in September was that she didn’t have an understanding for first-person and third-person point of view.  In the past weeks, I’ve brought up discussions surrounding viewpoint and how to understand what perspective a story is being told from.  I was very happy to find our discussion this week, which was surrounding point of view and perspective, was much more advanced.  Kim offered why she believed the book, If I Stay is told in first person and we talked over why the author may have chosen this perspective.

Overall, our last meeting was very hopeful based on the fact that Kim read the book on her own time and came to our session ready to share her ideas and comment on those of others.  I’m thrilled and I hope this book remains a keeper!  For our next session I’d like to check in with Kim to see if there are any misconceptions or clarifying questions so far.  In order for Kim to continue reading for pleasure, she needs to feel confident that she is understanding and reading for meaning.  By checking in with her, I want to reiterate that asking questions as one reads is a great way to interact and participate in a book.  I will encourage Kim to write questions and share ideas in the margins of her book, as I have been doing!    We’ll see what this week brings!  It seemed that Kim had a clear understanding of the book up to this point.  I hope this continues for her and most of all I hope she continues to enjoy this pick!  Until next time…